THE MADAGASCAR MATTER – Sneak Preview of Chapter One
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I flew into Antananarivo at 9pm on Tuesday night after having bounced my way across half the world from where I’d been previously in Edmonton, Alberta. When I left, the cold weather of the Canadian winter saw me off in temperatures of twenty below. Landing, the pilot informed us that the current temperature in the capital city of Madagascar was a balmy eighty-five and humid.
I traveled light. It was a habit drilled into us back in the Academy. Less baggage means you can move quicker, skirt customs lines, and get out of the airport as fast as possible. My instructors always harped on the fact that airports were too confining. If shit went down, the last thing you wanted was a gun battle between you and your target amid a hundred security types all looking for an excuse to finally fire their issue sidearm.
My passport was French and the official who glanced at it and broke into a toothy grin. “Bon soir, M’sieur.”
I smiled back. “Bon soir.”
He glanced through the passport, but I didn’t worry. The Council wouldn’t dream of supplying their active Fixers with anything but a legitimate passport. Mine came right from the central passport office in Paris, crafted with care by a French vampire who then forwarded it on to the Council, knowing very little of who would be using it and why, only that for all intents and purposes of this assignment, my home residence was in St. Germain-des-Pres, which worked out well since the place was filled with jazz clubs and I was on a major Dexter Gordon kick anyway.
The customs official stamped my passport and handed it back to me. I smiled. “Merci.”
I walked out of the airport and into the thick soup of humid night air. I took a breath and glanced around. Zero had mentioned there would be a contact by the taxi stand. I made my way over and watched a line of beat up Datsuns undulate like an inchworm as each segment scooped up a passenger and then disengaged from the rest of the line.
I knew the voice and couldn’t help the smile that broke out over my face. “I didn’t expect to see you here.”
“Didn’t I tell you there’d be a contact?”
I nodded. Zero looked relaxed, his bald head gleamed in the glow of the yellow light bulbs overhead. “Yeah, but I thought you were in London.”
“I was. Now I’m here.” He led me away from the taxi line by my arm and we walked toward the parking lot. “We’ve got plenty to discuss.”
“Like why there are two of us on this op.”
Zero nodded. “This one goes back, my friend. Back a lot longer than anything in recent memory.”
Zero pointed up ahead at a Range Rover. Whenever you had to drive in a third world country, there was nothing better. “We can talk inside. Too many ears in these parts.”
I glanced around but couldn’t make out anything despite my excellent night vision. But I trusted Zero with my life and if he said there were listeners out there, that meant we stayed mum until it was safe to do otherwise.
Zero approached the Range Rover and reached up into the wheel well. His hand came out a moment later with the magnetic case. He took the key out, unlocked the door and slid inside, reaching over to unlock my door. The interior of the car was humid and hot. “How’d you wrangle this?”
He shrugged. “Council set it up. Had someone swing by earlier and park it here.”
“I’m already impressed with the level of involvement here. What the hell’s going on?”
Zero started the engine and turned on the radio. A nightly news program in Malagassy, one of the official languages in Madagascar, poured out of the speakers. “We ride into town tonight and first thing in the morning, we have our first meeting.”
Zero placed his hands on the steering wheel. “Guy who knows how to find the man we’re looking for.”
The way Zero’s forehead creased concerned me. I’d been on my own now for almost ten years. Zero’s sudden reappearance on a mission had me wondering what was going on.
He glanced over and grinned. “You haven’t screwed up, if that’s what you’re thinking, Lawson.”
“I’m not sure what to think.”
“Been a while since we last worked together, hasn’t it?”
“I thought I was through with the apprentice thing.”
He nodded. “You are. This has nothing to do with your proficiency at completing assignments. It has everything to do with the rather unorthodox nature of this assignment.”
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Special Holiday Note: If you want to give this as a Holiday gift, please let me know on the order form and we’ll work together to customize a nice notification for the recipient! A year’s worth of Lawson excitement for under ten bucks!